I have often said that my early career as a staff photographer took
place in a context that could only be described
as Runyonesque. I am, of course, referring to the renowned newsman,
author and screenplay writer, Damon Runyon. He was born in
1884 and died in 1946. His stories were peopled with odd-ball characters,
the most well known of whom were the gamblers and minor hoods in the
stage play, which later became the movie, "Guys
a newspaper photographer from the 1960's through 2002, I met
many a character who fit the Runyon mold. Most of them were
my associates at Newsday (Long Island, NY).
the next few months, I will introduce you to them. In many
instances, I have changed names in the fervent hope that I
not be thrashed for having exposed their idiosyncrasies to
the world. It is not my intent to ridicule or criticize anyone.
The antics and the events about which I write did truly take
place. Time may have dimmed the exact dialogs but I write these
journals depicting these people as accurately as humanly possible.
I hope that you will find them as interesting and as zany as
A LENS DIMLY
THE PRINCESS AND THE GREEK
By Dick Kraus
Newsday Staff Photographer (Retired)
As I have stated in my Prologue, these journals are about some
of the weird and whacky people whom I have encountered during my
career. I have also said that many of them are my colleagues. Because
of that, many are also my friends. This brings up the quandary
of how to write these stories without insulting or embarrassing
these friends. Many years have elapsed since the incidents mentioned
here took place and the subjects of these stories have matured
and changed. Nevertheless, these events did take place and they
are stories that I feel need to be told in order to bring color,
life and realism to my claim that my early years in journalism
were truly out of the pages of Damon Runyon.
I have endeavored to be honest and forthright in writing these
journals. But, I am coming to a point where I feel compelled to
alter the names of my subjects. I am certain that they will recognize
themselves, as will others who knew them. I can only pray that
they do not take umbrage at what I write, but can see the humor
in these stories and agree that they are stories that need to be
told. I have written stories about myself that might have caused
me embarrassment at the time that they happened. But, I take pride
in the fact that these foibles are part and parcel of that wonderful
era of journalism that no longer exists. I hope that my friends,
who are depicted in these journals, feel the same.
The two people of whom I am about to write couldn't be more dissimilar.
Nora was a class act; a real princess. She was intelligent, beautiful,
polite and soft spoken. The Greek was bold, brash and belligerent.
They were both excellent photographers and they were both well
liked. Both of them were characters in their own right.
Nora, as I said, was very attractive. She was blessed with a pretty
face, crowned with long honey-blond hair. She was slim and shapely
and many a male head turned in her direction whenever she entered
a room. She was uniquely feminine and modest and she never flaunted
Nora came into our male dominated profession and was one of the
first women to be hired by our department. It took awhile for the
men in the Photo Department to get used to the fact that there
was now a woman among us. Our language and deportment was often
salty and salacious. When a group of us was waiting for our film
to be developed, crude and obscene jokes were often exchanged.
The fact that Nora might be one of the photographers waiting for
her film never deterred any of us from sharing a good dirty joke.
We were too used to being ourselves in what had once been a "man's" world.
To her everlasting credit, Nora never complained or made a fuss.
She never participated in this ribaldry, either. One minute
she was in the room, and then suddenly, she just vanished. Nobody
ever thought that she was prudish. She was just too much of a lady
to allow herself to be tainted by such crudity.
In spite of her modesty, there were occasions when her femininity
and beauty betrayed her, through no fault of her own. Nora was
a sharp dresser. The fashion of the time called for mini-skirts.
She would have none of the more mannish slacks that many women
wore. She wore the mini-skirt and showed it off well. It also showed
off her shapely legs, but if she noticed the obvious stares of
hot- blooded young (and old) men, she never paid much heed. It
shouldn't impede her professionalism. She wouldn't allow it to.
It did, however, have an impact on the males around her.
One day, my editor assigned me to make some color slides of one
of our photographers covering a sports event. They were to be used
as a slide show for visitors to the paper, showing the workings
of our Photo Department. I was sent to a high school basketball
game and it happened that Nora was covering it. I positioned myself
across the court so that I could photograph Nora shooting the
action. It was then that I noticed the effect that her mini-skirt
was having on men. In order for her to avoid blocking the view
of the spectators in the bleachers, Nora would squat at the sideline.
Thus the spectators got an unimpeded view of the game. But, the
players got an unimpeded view of Nora as her mini-skirt rode up
her marvelous legs. Let me hasten to say that there was nothing
lewd or salacious implied by this. She was properly attired with
the appropriate undergarments. But, the sight of all of that exposed
leg on such a pretty woman was more than the hormone crazed
teenage boys could take. Players would be watching her and dribbling
the ball into walls. Shots on the basket would go off in weird
directions. Even the referees would crash into each other. It's
a wonder that no one caught on that every game Nora covered was
such a low scoring contest.
Nora's naivety betrayed her in matters of the heart. She fell head
over heels for a tall, good-looking reporter in our newsroom. She
dated him exclusively for quite some time until she woke up one
day to the fact that his agenda didn't include commitment. His
failure of reciprocity, if I may use a photographic term, wounded
She sought solace in religion, choosing a very charismatic sect
far removed from the beliefs of her ancestors. From that point
on, her every waking moment was devoted to this group's philosophy;
which was skewed to making sure that she remained devoted to their
philosophy. Whenever she had a free moment, Nora's face was buried
in a religious book, folder, pamphlet or tract. Now she didn't
even bother to disappear from the darkroom area when smutty stories
were being exchanged. She stood outside the door of her film developing
room, oblivious to everything temporal around her. Her faith was
her shield. Her social life was now devoted to her religion. Most
of her money went to her church. She had nothing to do with the
camaraderie that was a hallmark of our tight little group of photographers.
We all missed the smiles and charm of this lovely person.
About this time, I was doing a stint as Night Photo Editor. Nora
worked my shift. One night, I gave her an assignment that started
at 7 PM. I went out to grab a bite to eat and when I returned at
6:45 PM, I noticed her car still in the parking lot. It was about
a 30 minute drive to her assignment and as I approached her car,
I saw her in the driver's seat, reading a religious tract by flashlight.
She was too absorbed to notice my approach and was startled when
I tapped on her window.
"Nora," I said. "Your assignment starts in 15 minutes and you
have a half hour drive ahead of you."
"Oh, yes," she responded as she started her car. "Don't worry.
God will provide."
"God will provide" became her catchword. She used it frequently.
Now we come to The Greek. I didn't use that term as an ethnic anything.
That's what he called himself. Whenever he phoned in to get his
assignments, it was always, "Hi. It's The Greek. Waddya have
George was Greek. Before becoming a newspaper photographer, he
had worked as a short order cook in several Greek diners belonging
to members of his family. He was proud of his heritage and never
tried hide it. He couldn't if he wanted to. He was tall, thin,
good looking with a thatch of straight dark hair that fell across
one side of his forehead. He was also one of the most outrageous
characters in our motley crew. He was loud, boisterous, passionate
and funny. Every time he brought his rolls of developed 35mm film
from the darkroom and laid them on the light table for the Photo
Editor to select, his comment was a loud, "You've seen the
rest. Now look at the best."
He often made comments to me about my friendship with the Chief
Photo Editor. He accused me of being an ass kisser and this always
resulted in my being able to get new cameras or lenses whenever
I wanted. Whereas he was frequently thrown out of the boss's office
when he went in to make similar requests.
One day I sat him down and explained the facts of life.
"Greek," I said, "Call it ass kissing if you wish. It's really
a matter of timing. Whenever I feel that I need to replace an old
piece of equipment, I watch through the boss's office windows.
I see him come in, hang up his coat, check his mail and phone
messages, stir his coffee and start to look through today's paper. When he
has had about half of his coffee, I walk over and knock on his
"Hi, Marv", I'll say. "Howz it going? Didja catch those Yankees
on tv, last night?" Or, I sit on the corner of his desk and we'll
discuss fishing, which we often do together. Then I'll say something
like, "By the way, Marv, I've had this Nikon camera body for about
four or five years now and the lens mount is loose. I've had it
back for repair a few times and it just doesn't want to stay tight."
He would pick it up and jiggle the mount with his fingers and say,
"OK. Fill out a request form and I'll getcha a new one."
"You, on the other hand, lay in wait for him. As soon as you see
him go into his office, you barge in on him before he has had his
coffee; before he even has his coat off. Then you throw the offending
piece of photo equipment on his desk and shout, 'GODDAM IT! YOU
GOTTA REPLACE THIS PIECE OF SHIT! IT DON'T WORK ANYMORE." Whereupon,
he throws you out of his office. Timing, Greek. It's all in the
He never got it.
One day, the princess came in from her assignments. She was in
tears. Some of the guys were in the office and asked her what the
"Oh," she sobbed, "This has been a terrible day. One of my cameras
is in for repair, and just now, as I was taking my spare camera
out of my trunk to remove the film I had shot earlier, it slipped
out of my hand and the back is bent and I can't close
it. What am I going to do?"
The Greek heard her lamentation. Oddly enough, in spite of his
gruff exterior, the man did have a soul.
"Don't worry, Nora. I just got a motor drive for one of my Nikons
and I can let you have the old back." (In those days, the
camera backs were removable and the motor drives came with their
"Hallelujah!" she exulted. "I knew that God would provide."
The Greek turned purple. "GOD WILL PROVIDE!! GOD WILL PROVIDE!!
What do you mean, 'God will provide?' God didn't give you that
back. I did. I provided."
Poor George. I guess he didn't understand that God often works
his miracles through other people. Or so I've been told.